The insurance company for the owner insists that I (or the driver of my vehicle) was partly at fault. What can I do about my damaged vehicle?

A:

If you can’t fall back on your own insurance company for repair/ total loss/ rental benefits, and the police report doesn’t take care of this issue, you should consider Small Claims Court.  The amount in dispute must be less than $10,000 and it takes some effort on your part, but there is sometimes no better or faster remedy available.

 

In most cases, and especially if there are no significant personal injuries, you will have to act as your own lawyer in Small Claims Court-after all, you want to recover what it takes to repair or replacement your vehicle, not spend the money you need on an attorney.  Small Claims Court is a true “people’s court” and the court’s clerks are pretty friendly and helpful.  What’s best is that if the issue is limited to who was at fault for your vehicle’s damage and how much you should be paid for repairs or its total loss, losing your case does not affect any claim for personal injuries.

I keep being asked for the police report. How can I get it?

A:

Do NOT call the emergency line.  Instead, call the “records” office of the police department whose officer investigated the crash.  The “exchange of information” form given to the drivers at the scene lists the name and town of the investigating officer (or, if the officer was a State trooper, the Troop letter), and the accident report number.  In the blue pages of the phone book, check under the town name or, if a trooper investigated, under “State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety.”
The fastest way to get the report is to get it from the town department or Troop yourself. If the report is not ready in a week, you can ask to leave a message for the investigating officer.  Please remember, though, that no matter how much you want or need the report, it’s a lot better to ask politely than to demand it.  Individual officers and troopers often respond well to requests for help, but your demand will only serve as a reminder of how busy they are with other things.

The insurance company for the owner of the other vehicle is dragging its feet. What’s going on?

A:

Insurance companies are supposed to protect their customers.  Proper protection means talking to their customer and listening what he or she has to say.
This means that if the insurer of the owner at fault often won’t agree to take any action until it’s had a chance to talk to its customer or the vehicle’s driver.  And even if it does reach its customer quickly, if the owner or driver of the other vehicle denies fault (or says that you were also to blame) the insurance company is not going to pay until the dispute about fault is resolved.  The insurance companies know that it’s a lot easier to say no first and then pay, than it is to pay first and then try to get money back.
There are two things you can do to hurry the process along.  First, you can report the collision instead of waiting for the owner at fault to get around to it.  Once you contact the insurer for the owner at fault, the owner’s insurer is going to be calling its insured to get things moving.  Second, you can get the police report-it’s an official document from a neutral professional.  If the investigating officer puts the full blame on the other driver it’s much easier to persuade the insurance company that protecting its customer means paying you.

My own insurance policy covers a rental vehicle. Should I use it, or just rely on the insurer for the owner at fault?

A:

There are several good reasons and usually no downside.

  1. Your own company might move faster
  2. Your own insurance company might pay more
  3. The insurance companies settle-up between themselves later, and your insurer will almost certainly get its money back from the insurance carrier of the owner at fault
  4. Your policy requires you to report accidents, so you might as well compare what your insurer will do in comparison with the insurance company of the owner at fault

I have collision coverage. I can have my own insurance company pay for repairs or, if it’s a total loss, put a value my vehicle. But I wasn’t at fault, so why would I want to do this?

A:

There are several good reasons and usually no downside.

  1. Your own company might move faster
  2. Your own insurance company might very well pay more, even considering your deductible
  3.  The insurance companies settle-up between themselves later, and your insurer should get back any deductible you may have to pay up front
  4. Your policy requires you to report accidents, so you might as well see what your insurer will do in comparison with the insurance company of the owner at fault

The insurance company for the owner at fault says my vehicle is a total loss and wants my title and keys; Should I provide them?

A:

You will most likely be paid the value of your vehicle in exchange for the vehicle itself.  The insurance company will then sell it for parts and scrap.  But it cannot take and dispose of the vehicle without the title and a key.  You will probably be reminded to retrieve your license plates and personal belongings before the vehicle is taken away-but it’s good to remember to do this yourself.

Should I get insurance for the rental car?; Won’t the insurance company of the owner at fault pay for it?

A:

It’s very important to know that the insurance company will not pay for insurance on the rental car.  Whatever coverage you have on your own car should apply ? to the rental. Check with your own vehicle insurance company.  No matter what, if your vehicle did not have “collision” coverage (which pays for property damage to your vehicle no matter who is at fault), your insurance will not pay for any damage to the rental.  And if your insurance has a deductible that must be met before any property damage is covered, you will have the same deductible if the rental car is damaged.

The insurance company is going to pay for a rental car.; How does that work?

A:

If the insurance company of the owner at fault is paying for a rental car:

  1. you will probably be sent to a particular car rental company where that insurance company gets unbeatable rates
  2. you will probably be allowed a vehicle of a size and type similar to the one that was damaged, but make sure you ask what the insurance company is going to pay for each day of rental.  If the company is willing to pay $28 per day, and you rent a car that is $35 per day, you are going to have to pay the difference;
  3. the insurance company should agree to be billed directly.

How can I check the “value” of my car myself?

A:

As with many things these days, finding information can be done most quickly on the internet.  Quick estimates can be had from Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com ), Edmunds (www.edmunds.com) and NADA (www.nadaguides.com) are good places to start.  Just remember-don’t rely on figures showing the dealer’s selling price for your vehicle, because the selling price includes dealer profit.  You may want to look more closely at trade-in value, or the price a dealer would have paid to buy your vehicle (if it hadn’t been damaged).  If you don’t have internet access, the reference desk of your local library is a good place to go.  If you do have internet access, you can try to calculate through the same sites the insurance companies are allowed to use.

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